Sechaba ka ’Nkosi, a shining light gone out too soon
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SECHABA ka’Nkosi, the deputy editor of Business Report has unexpectedly passed and it feels way too soon.
It is as if a shining light has gone out, but his song will carry on to be remembered.
For he had the gift of being able to illuminate the world through his words and grab the darn of a colourful tale to run with it until it rose to weave into our imaginations.
But it feels unreal that he has gone and bone-shakingly cold as we face the howling winds of civil unrest and Covid-19 in a world without him.
It is no coincidence that in his younger days he started his career path training to be a doctor.
But Sechaba soon realised that his passion was with words. And that it was his calling. And a calling it was.
Sechaba is known for his writing on the unfolding socio-economic events of our country, which was nonpareil.
He was a dyed-in-the-trenches newsman through and through and rattled those whom he took issue with.
He fondly retold tales of photojournalist Ken Oosterbroek, of covering unrest in Lesotho, and shared numerous other moments of his long, distinguished award-winning career.
I would like to share a sample of one of his Business Report columns, The Shake Up, among many other excellent opinion articles. In his column, March 20, 2019 titled: Koko et al besmirched black excellence, Sechaba wrote, “state capture is more than just a chat between drunk friends in a dingy pub in Hillbrow or a Saxonwold shebeen. It is real. In the not-too-distant future we will begin to count the rands and cents of its impact on our being. We will move beyond the figures that are touted on the economy and businesses. We will talk about real people. From the dusty streets of Katlehong to the valleys of the beautiful villages of Mbangweni, we will calculate the costs that the operational and financial problems that have engulfed Eskom have had on us as a nation.”
Beautiful, insightful writing, right? And as much as he was a proud family man, South African, Zulu, soccer lover, among numerous other characteristics that made up this complex individual, this son of ma ka’Nkosi and SA soil also decided to declared himself a feminist. He took a real gleeful shine to Women’s Day and supported women’s rights.
He told the newsroom that he grew up in a largely matriarchal-run household as his father, a famous unionist, whom he greatly admired, was killed during apartheid, and his mother and granny played a prominent role in his subsequent upbringing.
With that in mind he frogmarched both myself and my lovely co-worker Dineo Faku, whom Sechaba liked to call “Madam Speaker”, and coerced us both to write opinion pieces on the theme and encouraged us to use our voices. I imagine he has helped and mentored countless others to find the words inside themselves.
I like to recall another opinion he wrote: “Corporate arrogance is now all too common in SA, writes Sechaba ka’Nkosi” in March 2018.
He said: “South Africa last week watched in utter disbelief as Tiger Brands chief executive Lawrence MacDougall distanced his company from the largest listeriosis outbreak in the history of mankind.”
His writing was so alive and vivid. Sechaba accepted people with all their Technicolor idiosyncrasies and got a lot of mileage out of quirks too. How he enjoyed the drama and bad hair of Donald Trump.
The subject of religious charlatans also had him beaming with satisfaction upon the joy of denouncing them. As I said, where there was colour to life, ka’Nkosi grabbed the thread of a tale and ran with it. “Go boil your head,” was a favourite saying of his when irritated by someone.
However, as Sechaba provided comfort and guidance to others during a series of recent funerals that led him down the N3 to KwaZulu-Natal in his BMW, so too must we honour this shining light.
He recently wrote a tribute to Karima Brown, “RIP Karima Brown. World has truly lost a doyenne of black journalistic excellence,” on March 8.
“Dear Karima, I write to you today as you are probably sitting with the likes of Henry Nxumalo, Can Themba, Percy Qoboza, Sophie Tema and other doyennes of black excellence in the netherworld of the living dead,” he said.
Little did I know then that so soon I would be writing a tribute to Sechaba today. He too would be sitting with the doyennes of black excellence in the netherworld of the living dead.
However, if so, he is definitely enforcing his idea of heaven and enjoying some beloved gold and black play with a Kaizer Chiefs game with a glass of whiskey in hand cracking some on-point comments.
But as Sechaba has helped raise our spirits, we cannot forget his source.
Sechaba shared the nitty gritty of his skirmishes with police and making petrol bombs as a student activist amid apartheid. And how he was put in jail and subsequently spent time in the dreaded detention – a period that defined the man he would turn out to be.
He regretted snubbing the learning pool in jail, but said the experience helped him get through the isolation of being stuck at home amid Covid-19.
Also the deep sadness he felt on being forced to flee South Africa during apartheid and living abroad and missing all those years with his family.
The lost precious years that can never be replaced. But he said that on his return he tried to make up for lost time.
But despite the surreal apocalyptic trappings of the past few days that we South Africans have endured, I know that Sechaba was in a good place when he died.
He adored and was so proud of his children, whom he spoke of often. He too had a brood of brothers he hung out with along with countless friends.
However, he did not escape the gauntlet of loss that is the common coinage of these times. He lost his beloved mother and then his granny in the past few years and a few relatives to that “beast” we call Covid-19. At work he was a light.
He was very much loved and respected by his colleagues and friends at Business Report and Independent Media.
We are all devastated at his passing. He considered us his other family and I know that all the people that he had previously worked with also probably shared a good relationship with him, because that is the type of person he was.
He knew his own shadow, and in knowing, could view the world very clearly and delineate between the tricky moral morass right and wrong and the grey areas in between.
And as he eloquently ended his last opinion article, “You are because I am: the goat and the significance of having shoes for school on June 29, “In isiZulu they say umuntu wumuntu ngabantu. You are because I am.”
I complimented him at the time on those words, and Sechaba said the words just flowed that day.
Sechaba was my news desk team mate and we worked so well together. I didn’t realise my mundane work chat to him on Friday would be my last communication. Besides saying the obvious, “Hope you have a good weekend,” there is so much more I would have said to him if I had a premonition of his early departure.
But with wise sayings when they say there is only the now, there is no past and no future. That is so true.
I take comfort that Sechaba has lived such a full life with so many people that liked, loved and respected him, and that he died as he lived, peacefully and in a state of grace. Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika
Sechaba ka’Nkosi you were our blessing. Thank you so much. You will be sorely missed.